Here is one of the fiercest rivalries in international football. When Brazil play Uruguay, it is difficult to sidestep what happened on July 16, 1950. It was not actually the World Cup final, of course, since that version of the tournament found its winner through a round-robin last-four group stage. Uruguay's win sent a crippling shock across a country that was rapidly becoming the game's most passionate power. Every game since has possessed an edge of the sharpest needle.
This time, in the far less pressured environment of the Confederations Cup, Belo Horizonte plays host to a semi-final. The fateful game in 1950 was attended by 200,000, perhaps more. This time 72,000 will look on, in what is now Brazil's second-largest stadium.
What's on the line?
Clearly, a place in the final is Brazil's aim. Oddly, though, there are superstitious types who do not wish to win the Confederations Cup. Some of the Brazilian press have pointed out that their team's three previous wins of the tournament preceded World Cup failures. However, a final place was the lowest expectation of Luiz Felipe Scolari's team before the tournament. A win against a team who had faded since winning the Copa America in 2011 is expected too. If Scolari is to stay in the job up until next year's World Cup, then his team must win this match. Otherwise, he may find himself as odd man out in the 'dance of the coaches'.
Uruguay's aim from this tournament was the restoration of their reputation after their struggles in World Cup qualifying, and awful showing at last year's Olympics. That aim has been achieved. Despite being dominated by Spain, the 2-1 scoreline was creditable enough. The key match was negotiated, with a 2-1 defeat of Nigeria thanks to old master Diego Forlan. And then Tahiti were swiped aside to give Uruguay the chance to beat the team they love beating the most. Beating the old enemy would restore spirits yet more.
Style and tactics
Brazil's 4-2 win against Italy was full of the imperfections that have raised questions about them as a credible contender for next year's World Cup. The plan of getting Neymar on the ball whenever possible continued to work, though he bore open signs of frustration with periods of anonymity against the Italians. Getting the ball to Neymar and Oscar against Uruguay will perhaps be even more difficult, since games against their rivals usually turn out to be physical. Scolari will want his defence to get plenty of protection against Uruguay's fast-breaking forwards so Gustavo will become a hugely important pivot.
Oscar Tabarez's usual ploy of switching tactics to suit the opponent will be employed. The aim will be to squeeze play such that Brazil's creators do not get space to get at a slow defensive line. A midfield quagmire is the aim here, but then creating some one-on-ones with weak points is another. Luis Suarez will be deployed as testing a vulnerable left flank, while Edinson Cavani's hard-work ethic will be the first line of defence as well as attack. Soak up and hit on the break is the probable plan, but Tabarez will have at least one tactical trick up his sleeve.
Players to watch
Neymar's candidacy as a true world star has been embellished, now to do it in a match of greater importance. He will have to perform under the pressure of what can be expected to be some typical Uruguayan treatment. Julio Cesar, who will probably want to prolong his stay in Brazil to delay his return to pre-season training at QPR, might need to be at this best to deny the sharp-shooting of Uruguay's world-class forwards. Paulinho, all but headed for Tottenham Hotspur, is expected to return as the box-to-box midfield runner, as is David Luiz. Fred's goals against Italy furthered his reputation as a static goal machine.
Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan have spent the last two matches swapping status as Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorers. Two goals in the last ten minutes against Tahiti took substitute Suarez above Forlan, whose goal against Nigeria had claimed top spot. A less experienced striker in Abel Hernandez scored four against Tahiti but cannot expect to start when the megastars return. Edinson Cavani, the transfer pages' sweetheart, is still yet to score in this competition. Diego Lugano will have to roll back the years in defence to stop Neymar and Fred.
What can we expect?
The Uruguayan aim is of exasperation for Brazil, from which their fast-breaking forwards can eventually benefit. Brazil want to get off to the type of good starts they enjoyed against Mexico and Japan, but not let the game list as they did in all three group games. The semi-competitive nature of this tournament is likely to be ratcheted up to full bore by an ancient rivalry in which no quarter has ever been requested or given. Expect a few bumps and bruises.
Brazil, but they will have to achieve victory via a physical contest. It is a test they will be used to. Scolari is no stranger to such occasions and South American pride is at stake.